Three surgeries. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Boy if you want cover for how you’ve fucked up the past two seasons, this is going overboard but it just about does it.

The Hawks are probably hoping that this kind of massive, physical reason for Seabrook’s play and subsequent removal from the season will stop all questions. But it doesn’t, really. It’s just that none of the answers are good, or really mean anything until they get to a final decision. Which is either somehow retirement or an LTIR’ing for all of next year as well. Otherwise…well I don’t even know how to finish that sentence, but let’s dig in the now for now.

I wouldn’t be accusing the Hawks or Seabrook of making this up. They wouldn’t announce a buffet of surgeries for him and then send him to Tupac and Biggie Island. Would they? These are obviously things he’s been dealing with.

I guess the cover story is that Seabrook had simply covered them up, played through them, and didn’t tell anyone that he was so physically broken. Except…that’s incredibly hard to believe. Even if he was as secretive as possible, everyone noticed the drop-off in his play. At some point as he was tumbling down the mountain of usefulness, you’d figure some coach would have asked, “Is everything ok? Can we check you out?” You want to believe Quenneville, who did scratch Seabrook once and both had a massive respect for each other, would have sat him down before that healthy scratch. Especially if these maladies are as impactful as the Hawks want you to believe now. You can’t make a guy go for an MRI I suppose, but you can say you’re not going to play much until we find out what’s going on. It’s harsh, but well, look what the results of not doing so were.

So the Hawks want us to believe either they’re negligent or medically incompetent. Given how they’ve handled concussions in the past and other injuries, I suppose the latter isn’t far fetched at all. But we’re not talking about some obvious play where Seabrook got hurt…in three different spots…like we are with de Haan. He clearly fell funny in Vegas, and undid his shoulder surgery. For Seabrook to have all of these hit at once, he would basically have to be in a car accident.

Instead, he’s been a car accident. These have been degenerative injuries, at least that’s what we’re supposed to conclude. His body has been breaking down. And while hockey loves itself a “warrior” story, that kind of story falls apart when a player is actively hurting the team. Which Seabrook has been doing for at least three seasons now.

Let’s rewind here. Say the Hawks opt for this with Seabrook last year, when these conditions must have been making some sort of impact on his play (at least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe). Now you could have had Jokiharju here the whole season, really see what you have, and perhaps not become so disenchanted with him that you traded him for a seat-filler (sorry Feather, it’s what he is). That’s just one example.

If, somehow, Seabrook had kept all of this a secret and didn’t start wincing until he got into the car to go home from the arena, well he’s certainly got an otherworldly pain threshold, but that’s also negligent on his part. Playing through injury and pain is a given in most every sport, but when it comes to affecting your game and team, that’s a problem. We know Seabrook is the proudest of the proud and would never admit to anything wrong with him, or at least not in a way that affected his play, but there’s also a hint when you start to get scratched and demoted down the lineup.

You’d think the team would want to use his physical condition as a cover for his play, as they and he have been getting slaughtered in the press and among the fanbase for quite a while now. You’d think you might want to protect him a bit, given that he has seemingly given just about everything to the team.

And still, we’re less than two months between “I can help a team somewhere” after a scratch to “My body is now made of saltines.” We’re fivemonths between him telling Mark Lazerus at the convention “I’m going to shove it up everyone’s ass” to “I can’t move without something sounding like tin foil being crinkled.” That seems like a pretty short window to go from totally healthy to possibly finished forever.

Perhaps the Hawks and Seabrook have known about all this for a while, and it limited all their options. Even with eating half of his salary, if the Hawks could have found a taker there would have been serious trouble if he’d showed up to a new team with one shoulder and two hips turning into chowder. Maybe the only solution was to stick around, and if he’s sticking around they just didn’t feel they could fridge him until it became obvious there was no other solution.

I guess that’s where we’re at, but that means the Hawks knew about this for a while and probably should have done this a while ago. Like before they moved Jokiharju, who would hardly be a savior but would improve what you have and also give you further evaluation time on your future.

Where it goes from here, you can probably see. There is little to no chance Seabrook can rehab back from three surgeries, including on both hips which are only somewhat vital to a hockey player, and even be what he’s been lately and that’s not good enough. I’m sure the Hawks will let him try, and kind of pray it becomes clear to even Seabrook he has to retire. They can’t make him, obviously.

What it means for this year and all the LTIR space…well it’s not much really. The Hawks would only spill heavily into that if they were “going for it,” which this team absolutely should not do. I’ve seen the idea that they should take on bad contracts to get more picks and prospects if possible, but they can’t really do that either. A) they have serious cap problem next year thanks to this past wonderfully genius summer, so they can’t take on long-term bad paper and that limits what they can get for just taking on a few months of it and B) we’ve seen with Hossa that teams don’t ever want to use LTIR in the summer, as it limits flexibility in-season.

Even buyouts of Maatta and Shaw doesn’t open up enough space, you would think, to keep Strome, Kubalik, and one of the goalies. God, this just gets better and better. Watch this team have to be forced to trade Connor Murphy merely to open up cap space to continue to run in place.

Maybe there’s a thought that seeing one of the “Core Five” dispatched to the land of wind and ghosts will get the other four to contemplate their future. Maybe now everyone realizes the Hawks completely borked this “rebuild on the fly” and Keith and Kane would reconsider playing elsewhere to avoid a total teardown, such as it would be with them still around. You could still get things for them. You say Kane’s contract is immovable but any team that seriously considered trading for Taylor Hall and extending him was looking at something bigger than Kane’s cap number. It’s possible, if not likely.

It’s a mess, and while the Hawks have removed the mess from the ice at least, they’re hardly out of it altogether.


The level of inconsistency this past week was mind-boggling, so why not examine the good, the bad and the marginally acceptable? There was plenty of all three to go around.

The Dizzying Highs

Dominik Kubalik: A Little Bit of the Kubbly has been downright impressive these last few games, not counting the game against the Devils on Monday where the entire team got their dicks kicked in. Look past that, and Kubalik had a goal and assist against Colorado (a good team, mind you), and he had three points in his last four games. He’s fit in well on the top line, even with Brandon Saad now out of that picture. And speaking of that, the Hawks really need Kubalik to step into a Saad-like role, ideally with more finish, which seems entirely possible at this point.

Patrick Kane: It feels lazy to put Kane here, I know, but I’m working with the material in front of me, OK? Garbage Dick had a four-point night against the Jets and pretty much owned the entire game. Hell, he even made Alex Nylander look good in that game. Six points over the last week. Creep can roll.

The Terrifying Lows

Injuries: Listen, we can sit here and complain about a LOT of things, but in the spirit of Christmas I’m going to take the high road and only complain about some shit that isn’t directly anyone’s fault—injuries. On Monday night Adam Boqvist got hurt, and while it’s impossible to say that he would have changed the outcome, it certainly didn’t help to be down a defenseman in a game rife with defensive breakdowns (even more than usual). Add to that Calvin de Haan being out  and possibly needing shoulder surgery again. Even if de Haan does come back this season, this is the worst possible outcome of that move because now his shoulder will be gum and tinfoil for the rest of his career, and he was at least passable on defense, albeit too slow. Let’s not forget about Brandon Saad either, who had finally started scoring a little right before he too got hurt. Luckily his ankle injury isn’t a blown knee or a concussion, but for a struggling team none of this is good. Keith being out for a stretch did them no favors. And wtf is going on with Brent Seabrook? Not like having him IN the lineup is exactly helping the team, but whatever is going on is just another element of unnecessary drama for this team. If his voice and presence in the locker room is really so valuable, then this mysterious disappearance can’t be good.

The Creamy Middles

Kirby Dach: We’ve seen Dach’s potential on display in the last few games. His goal against Colorado was a pretty one—his reach and ability to hold onto the puck have been good to see. Playing him with Top Cat has been helpful too. Even in the ass-waxing against the Devils they led the team in possession with a 60 CF%. (DeBrincat’s had no finish lately so he doesn’t get an honorable mention here.) Dach can’t save the team on his own, but he’s showing he just may be the top center we’re going to need sooner rather than later.


Two days in arrears of this one, but thanks to the Hawks having a back-to-back we couldn’t get to Jeremy Colliton and Brent Seabrook until this morning. Such is life. But it’s worth diving into for sure.

So let’s get to the headline here, which came after Wednesday’s loss when Colliton was asked about scratching Seabrook and the reaction in the dressing room:

To quote modern philosophers Devo, “CRACK THAT WHIP.”

This wasn’t couched as it had been before both under Colliton and Quenneville when he scratched Seabrook. There wasn’t any mention of rest, or just giving him a different view, or any euphemism. That’s a straight-up “This guy sucks and I think we have better players.” Of course, the Hawks tried to cover their tracks last night by saying Seabrook was left behind for some minor injury issue while he was probably calling his agent and pouting. Certainly being hung out to dry in the press didn’t help his mood much. We saw how he reacted earlier in the year to this. It was a weak attempt, however. This is where I would insert a GIF of the scene from Ghostbusters where Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig (my heart….) are debating whether or not you can put the cat back in the bag, were such a thing to exist.

Colliton went on to mention getting younger players in the lineup like Boqvist and Gilbert. Again, that’s not wrong, but it’s the talk of a rebuilding team which the Hawks have really Bird Of Paradise’d themselves to say they’re not doing. Boqvist at least should be playing all the time, and I suppose Gilbert can’t be that much worse than Seabrook now so it’s worth a free roll to see if he can be better. But it remains an organizational mixed message.

This also is basically telling the vets to shut the fuck up, and on some level you get it. They’ve had the run of the show here, and the team sucks now, so the Hawks really have to start thinking about what comes next. And what’s next is most likely to see Keith and Toews only contributors, not main cogs. Kane looks like he might still be a main cog, because he’s a mutant. Their leadership will be necessary of course, though Keith’s gruff ways have never lent themselves to being a great leader at times.

But at some point, “the core’s” wants and desires run in opposition to what’s best for the team. At least in this case, their desire to see Seabrook not fucked with does. Because the Hawks need to move on from him, plain and simple. And they know that. This was coming, as we’ve repeatedly said, no later than training camp next year when the hope would be Boqvist, Mitchell (if signed), and some other kid stake out a roster spot.

As we wrote the last time we went through this and a few times before, the Hawks had a delicate path to doing this to save face for Seabrook and themselves. They passed on that, so now they have this mess.

All that said, Jeremy Colliton is not the man to deliver this message. Because he has no cache or credibility with his team, especially the vets. We’ve known Keith has thought he’s a dolt from the get-go, and Toews basically joined him this year. Kane is placated by getting 25 minutes per night and scoring a ton, but how long that lasts I don’t know. Corey Crawford might firebomb the whole team, given what he’s been asked to cover for every start.

Colliton lost that cred by waffling on his strategy. Or by forcing seven d-men upon them to get Slater Koekkoek in the lineup against his former team who no longer knows who he is (it’s here I could argue they only had to dress seven D because Seabrook was a sacred cow still, but I won’t). The results haven’t earned him anything either. He’s been cut at the knees by both players and front office telling him to let his forwards cheat out of the zone more often, which hasn’t helped anything now that we have the greater sample on it.

So you can see why the vets would balk not at the message per se–they know Seabrook has played himself into this position, if they’ll never say it–but who is delivering it. He hasn’t earned anything from it, and they’re not going to accept it from him. I don’t even know if they’d accept it coming down from on high, given what’s gone on here the past few years. I’ll let friend of the program Chris Block settle it for you:

So he can do the right things, but they’re in the wrong time. Which is pretty much how the Hawks have operated for four seasons now.



RECORDS: Hawks 13-16-6   Jets 20-12-2




The last thing a team in turmoil in the dressing room and playing like shit needs is three games in four nights. Even worse, it needs even less those three games to be against teams at the top of the division. And we’re not done, as the last two of the troika are on the road, with the last at altitude. It’s Wiggum into the hot dog machine, folks…

To be fair, the Jets aren’t that close to the Blues or Avs. They’re just a hell of a lot closer than the Hawks are, and currently hold the last automatic spot in the Central. They only have that though with a tiebreaker over the Stars, and should the Stars catch them the Jets will be in the muck as much as anyone else hovering around the wildcard spots.

So how did the Jets get here? You’d probably naturally conclude they shot their way to 42 points, but you’d be wrong. It’s hard to fathom with all the firepower the Jets have in their top six that they’re a middling 16th in goals per game, but that’s the case. They can’t figure now if Patrik Laine’s first two years are actually the outlier and now he’s just a slightly plus-sniper, but moving to the top line hasn’t shown him to be the 50-goal scorer he once flashed. Blake Wheeler has moved to the second line and while he’s producing alongside Nikolaj Ehlers, they haven’t quite brought Jack Roslovic along for the ride.

Injuries up front haven’t helped. Bryan Little is taking his customary few weeks off with some ailment or something falling off of him. Mathieu Perreault got hurt recently, and Andrew Copp left Tuesday’s game and will miss out tonight. That’s eroded what used to be one of the best third lines in the league with Adam Lowry, who will have some strangers around him tonight.

The Jets have kept their goals against down, but that’s mostly due to the brilliance of Connor Hellebuyck. He’s currently third in the league in overall SV% behind Bishop and Kuemper, and the Jets have the sixth best SV% at evens. And they need it, because this is a woeful defensive team. The departure of Jacob Trouba and the sojourn of Dustin Byfuglien (somehow) has destroyed the blue line, as the Jets have the third-worst expected GA in the league. They’re right behind the Hawks. And the thing is they’re decent enough at limiting attempts. They just can’t do much about those attempts being prime chances far too often. Strangely, Tucker Poolman didn’t save the day. I know, right?

The Jets power play hasn’t really fired yet, but you’d have to expect a binge sometime given all that is has on it.  It lacks a true QB without Byfuglien, even though that’s a very weird sentence. With that and the play of Hellebuyck, you’d have to guess the Jets will find themselves in the playoffs again. And Paul Maurice will still hang onto his job, even though that defies explanation and the team quit on him last year.

For the Hawks, it’s hard to imagine they’ll scratch Seabrook a second night in a row, given that Keith and Toews were already moaning about it yesterday. Given the size the Jets still have, wouldn’t be a shock of Colliton uses that as an excuse to sit Boqvist and keep Gilbert in the lineup, even though the Jets are going to go right around him the way the Avs did. Robin Lehner rotates in. Perhaps Sikura could get a look now that Highmore has proven to be nothing more than an extra? I won’t hold my breath.

If the Hawks are smart, which they aren’t, they can get chances against this team because the blue line is straight-up bad. But they have to keep their zone from getting caved in, which is hard to do against this top six. It’ll be the same plan for the Jets as it was the Avs last night. Attack the Hawks line at speed and get around their plodding defense. Cycle from low to high to confuse their coverage. Win all the races because the Hawks can’t get there. Don’t let Kane and DeBrincat and Saad get out in space.

We’ll see if they execute. With another date with the Avs looming Saturday, this has every chance of being an ugly week. Not ugly enough to force any tough decisions of course. There’s a process, don’t ya know?



It is my solemn duty to go through this Q&A Stan Bowman did with The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (Closer than you know, love each other so…MARK LAZERUS). However, before we get in up to the elbow here, I want to get a couple things out of the way at the top to save us time.

One, there’s a very narrow scope of the things we can expect Stan Bowman to say. He’s not going to come out and tell Lazerus, ‘Boy this team I put together sure blows, huh? I mean they really stink! What was I thinking? This is why you don’t go to work on quaaludes, Mark!”

That would be a flashing, “Fire Me!” sign. And while you might want Stan to get fired, and I might too, we can be sure that he doesn’t want to get fired. So he’s not going to say any of that.

Second, even calling for major changes would be saying the same thing, indirectly. If Stan were to say, “Yeah, we have to do something to right the ship. This isn’t working,” he would in fact be saying, “This team sucks and I need to fix what I put together.” Again, that’s a “Fire Me!” sign.

Third, I have to battle with a major theme of this interview because we’ve already been doing it. The Hawks aren’t bad because they’re inconsistent. They’re inconsistent because they’re bad. That’s what bad teams are. Unless you completely lack talent everywhere like Detroit (that still feels good to write) or arguably New Jersey (especially now), the next tier of bad teams are bad because they simply lack the ability to put it together every night. Everyone wins five or six games in a row somewhere along the line. Even the really good teams will lose three or four in a row. What keeps those teams apart is the frequency of good performances, or performances good enough to get two points. And they can do that because they have more good players (really breaking through the layers here, aren’t I?). Or their coach inspires them most every night to stick to a plan or play harder or whatever it is. Or all of it.

So basically I’m going to skip most of the parts where Stan desperately wishes for his team to be more consistent and that will solve everything. Because they’re not going to be more consistent, because they’re bad. They don’t have enough good players. They don’t have a good coach to overcome that. Plain and simple.

Ok, let’s do it.

We can’t seem to put it all together on a consistent basis. We can do it in stretches, we’ve seen that, we’ve beaten some good teams this year, top teams in the league. But we can’t seem to keep it going. So that’s where we are. 

So this is basically Stan doing that, and is the theme for the first part of the interview. You can do the rest here.

(Andrew) Shaw’s been out for a while, and (Drake) Caggiula, too, and they play a certain style that we don’t have a lot of now. I think we do miss their energy at times. 

If you’re a team that actually “misses” Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula, then you have a shit-ass hockey team. Plain and simple. These are, at-best, third line players that you should be able to replace with call-ups or extra forwards. And if you can’t, that’s on your organizational depth. Caggiula especially, who has played just about half of a season and the most kind you could be to him is to call him “useful.” That’s a long way from game-changer.

Our power play’s starting to be a little more consistent now and it’s scored somewhat regularly in the last 10 games or so. From that perspective, that could be something. When you have goaltending and a power play, it can help your team get some wins. 

You can’t count on a power play and goaltending as structural bases for long-term success. They may buy you a season. But the only thing that matters month after month and year after year is even-strength play. You’re basically saying you have to gimmick your way to points here.

So we’ve got to rely on the guys that do have the experience to be consistent performers. That’s just what we haven’t had, sort of across the board. 

I can’t fathom whom this is aimed at. Patrick Kane? The guy who is top-10 in scoring with little PP help? Jonathan Toews got off to a slow start, but is ticking at a 60+ point at the moment. And that’s what he is. Did the Hawks expect him to set another career high in goals and points at 32? Did they not think last year was something of an outlier? Brandon Saad? He’s been your most consistent forward and is on target for the 25 goals he pretty much always provides. Keith’s been hurt. Certainly not Corey Crawford, who has every right to simply lay down his gear in the crease and walk away in the middle of every game he’s under siege. Connor Murphy has been your best d-man by some distance. So who are we talking about here?

If he’s laying this at the feet of just now 22-year-old Alex DeBrincat and his low SH%…well I just don’t know…

Even the games that we’ve lost recently where we (lost) leads, it comes down to just a few things here and there. 

This is always the lament of the damned. It’s hockey. Every game comes down to a few things here and there. The good teams do them. The bad teams don’t. You don’t just start magically doing them because you want to.

I think our veterans need to be more consistent in their habits and details, as well.

Again, I don’t know exactly what this is getting at. Maybe there’s something at practice or behind the scenes that they’re not doing. And it’s true, on the ice we’ve seen things like Toews taking a shortcut here or there (fleeing the zone, reaching instead of moving, fly-bys) and Keith on his own agenda at times. Kane doesn’t always come back, but then again that’s always been an element of his game. But these aren’t the major problems, and I don’t know that calling out your vets when you’ve surrounded them with this and having them led by that is the route you want to go here, Stanny Boy.

I think we know, like Jeremy says, when we do the right things, we’re a good team. But we’ve got to do them consistently. We can’t do them sporadically. Maybe we could do that in previous years, years ago, when we could play for a period and a half and find a way to win. We’re not designed for that right now. We’ve got some younger players and we’re trying to expand their roles, expose them to the NHL, build some of their habits. And at the same time, we need performances, as well.

A) see above.

B) This is the main crux of the problem. Stan says they’re trying to get young players experience, which is what a rebuilding team would do. And then the very next sentence is about winning. I’d ask which is it, but the Hawks and Stan don’t know.

The beginning of the season, we played pretty well coming back from Europe in that home stretch. We didn’t really get rewarded with wins, but we lost some games we deserved to win where we really outplayed the opponent and outshot them. 

Did you now? Let’s see if we can find them: Blew a huge lead agains San Jose, didn’t deserve shit. Played ok against the Jets, got a point. Actually played pretty well against Vegas, could argue deserved another point. Weren’t bad against Washington. So if I’m as generous as humanly possible, that’s three more points. Which would give the Hawks 35. Which would have them seven points out of a playoff spot. And still last in the division. Oh how cruel the Gods be!

There’s also a lot of allusions to the stretch in November, which is bogus because Stan goes on to say how he doesn’t focus on a handful of games when things are going bad. You can’t do either. You have to look at the whole thing, and Stan only does when it’s convenient. A few bad games aren’t proof that everyone needs to go, but a few good ones prove that this team can be successful?

I think right now, just getting in the playoffs, you can easily win the Cup.

This garbage needs to stop, and it needed to stop long ago. Just because it does happen on occasion doesn’t mean it’s a hard and fast rule. One, your previous champs (Caps, Penguins, Hawks, Kings second time, Bruins) were all 100+ point teams among the best in the league and among the best for a while. You don’t have to say, win the Presidents’ Trophy or even the division, but generally you have to be among the members of the penthouse.

Second, the Blues were built to be that, and actually finished a mere point or two from it. They spent the first half of the year trying to get their coach fired. They played like they were supposed to for the last half of the season. They aren’t some Cinderella story. It’s about more than just “getting in” (any woman would tell you that).

He brings a different element than pretty much any of our other defensemen with his physicality and his aggressiveness.

I really don’t want to get on Dennis Gilbert’s case here. He is what he is and he’s doing what he thinks he has to to stay in the league. More power to him. The problem is that Stan is completely misdiagnosing the main reason the Hawks are garbage water. It’s mobility on the blue line. They don’t need the element Gilbert brings. They need everything he doesn’t. Speed and skill and vision. They have one player with it, he’s 19 and drowning at the moment. This sentence right here is why the Hawks are so far behind everything.

When the coaches are evaluating how this guy is doing, they’re not always looking at how many goals did he get, how many assists does he have. They’re looking at what did he do, how much is he growing in his role. Last year, Dylan did a good job of that. He had nothing to show for it, but he helped his line in a positive way. Alex was, as well. 

This is half correct, so I’m gonna throw some WOWYs at you (with and without stats) for Sikura and Nylander.

Sikura last year (CF% with/CF% without):

Saad: 58.8/51.9

Anisimov: 58.1/44.7

Toews: 58.0/50.5

Nylander this year:

Toews: 47.2/50.9

Saad: 51.0/54.1

Kane: 41.4/46.5

Thank you for your time.

Alex is not different than any of the other players that way. 

Utter horseshit. Nylander and Sikura have basically now played the same amount of games for the Hawks. Nylander has scored two goals that mattered and yet he’s playing on the top six and Sikura has already been designated for departure and can’t get on the ice ahead of immobile pudwhack Matthew Highmore. The difference is that the Hawks actually gave up a representative NHL player for Nylander, and they’re doing everything they can to cover their ass about it.

That’s a question nobody knows the answer to. We don’t know how quickly the young players are going to become impact players.

Um…shouldn’t you? Isn’t that part of the calculus when you draft someone? “We think it’ll take him this long to get here?” At least have some sort of projection? Or do you have to consult shamans and witches and such? Is that why Canadians spend so much time in the woods?

There is no plan, but there’s a process.




RECORDS: Avs 21-9-3   Hawks 13-15-6




You can’t get a more clear illustration of one team with everything in front of them, and one that can’t stop staring down than on Wednesday Night Hockey tonight. Heightened by the fact that the Avs have already Macho Man Elbowed the Hawks twice this year, and it’s hard to find a bigger chasm you can watch. But hey, they make you play all 82.

The big story probably lies with the Hawks tonight, as once again Brent Seabrook is a healthy scratch. And according to Jeremy
Colliton, this isn’t about making some statement. I don’t know if this signals some massive youth movement for the Hawks, but either way this is correct. With Duncan Keith returning tonight and Adam Boqvist needing minutes with a real d-man, there’s little option really. Sure, bending over for Dennis Gilbert is not a good look for anyone, but this was going to happen when the Hawks have other actual promising kids around and it’s probably not the worst message to send to everyone that they will get looks if they’ve earned it over sputtering vets. Hell, if de Haan were every going to be healthy again, Seabrook might be looking at being #8 on the depth chart.

The other story is Keith returns as well and will pair with Murphy, which for a handful of games early in the season actually looked like a thing. Whether this is the team you’d want to return against when your groin is iffy is another question. But there probably isn’t much choice.

If there was hope the Avs might take this one lightly, those probably disappeared with them getting soundly beaten by the Blues 5-2 on Monday. And the last thing the Hawks need is an ornery Avs team that they can’t handle. They probably can’t handle them heavily medicated.

The Avs are beat up on the blue line. Cale Makar and Erik Johnson have missed the past few games and won’t play tonight. That leaves a first pairing of Samuel Girard and Nikita Zadorov, which you would think even the Hawks could get at. But you’d think a lot of things.

The problem is that unlike their double-header after Thanksgiving, the Avs are just about fully operational at forward now. Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog is back, so’s Matt Calvert, and the Hawks couldn’t handle the Avs when they were rounding their fourth line out with AHL flotsam. So that’s fun.

Nathan MacKinnon is definitely off on one, so good luck to Keith’s groin. He’s got 34 points in his last 21 games, has vaulted into the top-five in scoring, and is going to make a case for yet a Hart Trophy before too long. One that has somehow eluded him to this point in his career. He’s got running buddy Mikko Rantanen back, and Burakovsky has loved being on the other side.

The Hawks simply couldn’t deal with the Avs transition speed, and also couldn’t find the Avs’ centers when they were set up in the Hawks’ zone. Both MacKinnon and Kadri benefitted from waiting out near the blue line while the puck was down low behind the Hawks’ net last time, and then crashing down when possession was won and the Hawks looking for them and not finding them. Watch for this tonight and whether one of the Hawks wingers abandons a point to cover this or the center leaves the front of the net to get out high against them. Either is probably a better choice than simply letting MacKinnon run around free all he likes.

The Hawks are now the wooden spooners of the West. That should embarrass everyone, but we’ll see if they have a response. It could be an ugly week, as they have the Avs twice with the Jets sandwiched in between. Perhaps fear of embarrassment is what they need.



RECORDS: Hawks 12-13-6   Coyotes 18-11-4


TV: NBCSN Chicago

SOOOPER GENIUS: Five For Howling

The Hawks and Coyotes will do it again, just four days after they came together for an occasion that will be lost to the annals of time soon (hopefully). In the interim, they both got kicked around by Pacific Division opponents, the Hawks by the Knights and the Coyotes by the Flames.

So obviously not that much has changed since these two went to a shootout on Sunday. The one major storyline for the Hawks is what they’ll do without Calvin de Haan now as he joins Duncan Keith in the medical tent. de Haan wasn’t put on LTIR today, just normal injury reserve, so maybe it’s not the catastrophe it looked on Tuesday. Either way, he’s out for the next few.

On the surface, we know that it means. Assuming Olli Maatta has recovered from the West Nile he contracted in New Jersey, he’ll come back in, pair with Seabrook, while Gustafsson is with Murphy and the two kids are together for like nine minutes. What it should mean is pairing Adam Boqvist with Connor Murphy and see what you have. Because what do the Hawks have to lose? They’re bottom of the division, they’re one of if not the worst defensive team in the league, so let’s have some fun. Give Boqvist the best free safety you have and let him run. Yes, he had a bad turnover on Tuesday that led to a goal. It’s going to happen. He also hit a post, created two other chances, and helped set up the goal you got. Let him make mistakes, live with it, see if he gets better. We know the Erik Gustafsson road. We know the Slater Koekkoek road. We know exactly where it ends.

Other than that, it’s hard to give you reasons to get excited to watch. The forwards should stay the same, unless Matthew Highmore comes in for someone, possibly Sikura though he hasn’t done anything wrong in two games, really. And once again the Hawks will hope that the Coyotes don’t have a plan for the night, or won’t stick to it, because that’s generally the only way the Hawks win.

Luckily for the Hawks, the Yotes defense might be as big of a mess as theirs. Jason Demers joined Niklas Hjalmarsson the shelf, and they were all over the place against Calgary on Tuesday. They gave up goals to Zac Rinaldo and Milan Lucic, which in a world that was logical would lead to automatic relegation instantly. They gave up 24 shots in the first two periods, though did rally furiously for a 17-5 edge in that category in the 3rd after the Flames had checked out.

The Yotes certainly have been piling up the shots lately, with 48 against Calgary and 47 against the Hawks on Sunday. If they had finishing talent, they might have been pouring in the goals. But they don’t, so they’ve gotten two of four points and needed a shootout for those.

Same plan as Sunday. The Yotes are pretty quick up front, and gave the Hawks fits when they were diligent about forechecking and harassing the Hawks D into turnovers. When the Hawks try and freelance out of this or don’t really care about helping out, you get what you got on Tuesday or the last half of Sunday. If the Hawks are dedicated to moving the puck quickly and directly, they can create chances against a beleaguered Coyotes blue line.

If the Hawks can’t get points here, they’re staring dead straight at the season being over by Christmas. The Avs are up twice next week, as is a trip to The Peg after a home date with the Wild, who just zoomed past them in the standings. It’s very easy for all of that to go balls-up. Have to get you can while you can when you can. And more quotes from random sources that might inspire.



I know you must be sick of the constant debate here and elsewhere on what exactly this season is supposed to be for the Hawks. We don’t know if it’s a secret rebuilding year that they’re afraid to label due to ticket sales, or they’re really trying to make the playoffs and they’re just bad at it. What’s really frustrating and scary is that it’s getting clearer and clearer they don’t know either. The lack of true bellyaching from the vets would suggest they’ve been advised it’s a rebuilding year but can’t say so publicly, but that’s just more tea leaf reading that make us all sick. So let’s forget that.

Because no matter what it is, it’s time to let Adam Boqvist run the show. Or at least see if he can.

In case you missed it this morning, Adam Boqvist was called up along with Matthew Highmore as Andrew Shaw was moved to LTIR. With Duncan Keith out for the entire road trip, it gives the Hawks some more bodies. But even the Hawks aren’t dumb enough to call up their #1 prospect and have him sit in the pressbox so we can watch Dennis Gilbert and/or Slater Koekkoek pull the Bugs Bunny, “Heyexcusmemistercouldyoutellme….’ while some Knight forward blazes past them. After Koekkeok’s egregious tour de stupid last night, he should be sent to Rock Vegas immediately and forever anyway.

If the Hawks are trying to make the playoffs, and I guess being only four points out even with every team to leap they can make that case, they need any kind of mobility they can get on the back end. They need transition. And they don’t need to worry about defensive breakdowns or getting beat, because everyone besides Connor Murphy is doing that anyway.

The biggest cause to the Hawks’ headaches, or one of them, is that they simply can’t win any races in their own end. Watch when any team gets possession in the Hawks zone, and whenever there’s a puck to be won you can be sure the Hawks will be second to it. This is where team speed really counts, not in racing up and down the ice in a track meet. The Hawks can’t get there. Boqvist can get there. And he needs to learn how to do that at an NHL pace and with NHL reactions, things he can’t simulate in the AHL.

And he can skate out of trouble. Watch how many times a Hawk d-man has the puck below the goal line and seemingly with time and never makes a play before getting inhaled and spit out by a forechecker. That’s why the Hawks have to use the 17-pass breakout, because the forwards have to be there to bail out their tortoise defense. And then the next forward has to be lower for an option for that first forward. Boqvist can extend all this up the ice.

And if this is strictly a development year, and it could be, then there’s even more incentive to let him come up, make mistakes but also “try shit,” because he’s the only one who can at high speeds. Gustafsson “tries shit” all the time at remedial pace, and you see where that’s gotten everyone. Having Boqvist drooled on by has-beens and never-will-bes in some backwater only reachable by dirt road isn’t going to do much for him or the Hawks. He’s gotten a sampling at both levels now, was told what to work on, so let’s go.

Even in his brief time here, the Hawks had their best goals-for per 60 and expected goals-for per 60 with Boqvist on the ice. Sure, more things happen in their zone too, but it’s not like they’re planning on making that stop anyway. Get him out there with a true free safety, really any one of de Haan, Murphy, or Maatta would work. Do not stick him with Seabrook on his wrong side or Gustafsson or Fetch or Gilbert or so help me….

And let him run. Don’t put the shackles on him. Let’s see what he can do. Don’t bench him for bad turnover or two. Put his hair on fire. If this is a Ferrari, you don’t use it to go to fucking Mariano’s a couple blocks away in traffic. Get out on Sheridan Road and scare some people on the lake in Winnetka. Put him on the #1 PP, get the puck off of Kane’s stick for a few seconds and see if Boqvist’s creative movement opens things up for everyone else. Once again, the Hawks’ PP has become stagnant as Kane James Hardens the puck on the right circle.

Because if you can see The True Boqvist in these next few games, it’ll make your decisions when Keith is healthy more explicable to people. Because that’s still the underlying debate. We know the Hawks likely will chicken out (again) and just send #27 down when Keith is healthy so they don’t have to scratch Maatta and Seabrook regularly. But if Boqvist gives everyone an exciting glimpse of the future, it’s much easier to go the press and say, “We need this in the lineup because we just don’t have it otherwise,” and one of the vets is out on their ass.

Whether the Hawks want to go somewhere this year or down the road, they have hard decisions. Give Boqvist every chance to make them easier.


Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks win a game that looked like mononucleosis on ice. There were some really nice highlights from guys you care about, too. Let’s keep it tight, cuz it’s a drinkin’ night.

Corey Crawford might not get his number retired. He probably won’t make the Hall of Fame. But he’s now a 250-win goaltender and has firmly established himself as at least a Top-3 Hawks goaltender of all time. It’s easy to take him for granted because he does so well without the panache of someone like Robin Lehner, but once again, he proved to be the crux of a Hawks victory. He stoned three of four Devils power plays and held on in the shootout, stopping 29 of 30 overall. The fact that Dennis Gilbert got Player of the Game just reinforces that Crawford is Chicago’s Rodney Dangerfield.

Kirby Dach had himself a nice game, too. He was aces in the first period with three shots on goal and a smooth steal to set up his first shot. The scuttlebutt has been that Dach needs to shoot the puck more, and tonight he showed he took that idea seriously. His forehand deke in the second was just a bit wide, but he had the right idea. Though the shootout is a waste of everyone’s time, his patience on it got the Hawks the extra point. It’s still extremely dumb to see him playing fourth-line minutes with Smith and Carpenter, even though if you squint, you can sort of get the logic—having him play against trash and all. Let’s get him more time against better talent and see what he can do going forward.

– If Brandon Saad had any sense of finish about him, we’d actually get to call him Hossa Jr. Once again, he was strong in possession and dominant on defense, but he also got stoned on breakaways twice. His pass to a wide-open Kubalik in the waning minutes of the third was art, and if not for Kubalik gripping his stick too hard it could have been a game winner.

– We got to see Dominik Kubalik skate with Toews and Saad for a bit, after Nylander once again proved that he’s done nothing to deserve that spot. Saad–Toews–Kubalik has all the potential in the world to be a strong, right-kind-of-heavy line for this team if only that coach of theirs would let them. Credit for doing it at all, but do it more, now.

– The DeBrincat–Strome–Kane line was a threat all night. DeBrincat’s goal showcased all the things they can do when they’re clicking. Kane came toward the circle off the near boards and lofted a pass to Strome. Strome batted it out of the air with the shaft of his stick in one of the more impressive displays of hand-eye coordination we’ve gotten to see this year, then fed Kane for a quick, hard shot. The rebound deflected to an uncovered Top Cat, who bit the snake back with a backhander. Eddie gave Toews the credit for standing in the crease, but Dylan Strome was the real hero on that play.

– The next time Brent Seabrook tries to tell you that he’s still got something left to give, remember this clip:

There’s no reason for Brent Seabrook to be that far out for that long, unless you’re running Supre Brain Genious Jeremy Colliton’s dumbass system. The Hawks were fortunate that Hughes didn’t pot that shot.

– We shouldn’t be surprised when Foley and Eddie dump all over Subban, but listening to Eddie do a three-minute Andrew Dice Clay impression about Subban’s scoring woes just minutes after claiming that the things Dennis Gilbert does are things “you can never get enough of” is pitch-perfect HOCKEY MAN bullshit. Wad that up and shove it in your dick, Eddie.

Four points is four points, and the Hawks get the added bonus of leaving New Jersey. Overall, not a bad trip.


Beer du Jour: High Life

Line of the Night: “It IS meaningful.” Pat Foley describing Dennis Gilbert’s fight, trying harder to convince himself than any of us.


As the Hawks call up yet another d-man who isn’t Adam Boqvist, for some reason I’m thinking about Kris Versteeg.

I know that sounds strange, but come with me. When Versteeg “retired” from the Icehogs a couple weeks ago, he cited the far more physical nature of the AHL. Because it is filled with guys trying to get noticed, and there are far too many people on both sides of the discussion who think getting noticed means throwing your body and fists around like you’re caught in the Oz tornado, it simply was too much for Versteeg. He said it was in a lot of ways “easier” to play in the NHL. We’ve heard this about the A for eternity.


If the idea of the AHL is as a developmental league, why wouldn’t more teams want their farm teams to play the way those players will play when they’re called up? This was a big question in the last years of Joel Quenneville‘s reign here, as the Hawks prospects and fill-ins were playing one system in Rockford and it was little secret why they looked a touch lost up here.

The only comparison is baseball, which has its own established developmental system (I recognized the NBA does too but that is for more fringe players). And yet I don’t believe Dylan Cease was being instructed to throw at everyone’s head when in Charlotte or Javy Baez was told to take any shortstop out at the knee trying to break up a double-play (don’t tell me Sox fans wouldn’t have loved it if he was though). Both baseball front offices in town have talked endlessly about instilling a way to play throughout the entire organization. Why do you never hear this in hockey? Is it because a lot of players don’t even enter it, coming from college or Europe? That would seem a tad flimsy.

I ask this because the I don’t get the impression that Adam Boqvist is going to learn much about the NHL game in Winnebago County. I’m not sure anyone does. And the longer the Hawks keep him there, either they’re souring on him, or they’re putting off any Seabrook decision as long as they can, or he’s going to just plateau in a game that doesn’t reflect the one the Hawks eventually want him to flourish within.

While there’s certainly a physical element to the NHL game, teams are much more concentrated these days on being fast and carrying the puck in whenever possible. The real skills Boqvist needs are gap control and angles, things which he actually already is pretty decent. Yes, there are times he’s going to have to learn how to retrieve a puck in the corner and not get massacred, but he also can’t emulate NHL speed at the AHL either. And he has to do that far more often in a league that seems only to care about hitting and grinding. It’s just not the NHL game.

I ask these questions, not because the Hawks called up another plodder in Dennis Gilbert (though that’s part of it), but look around at any good d-man under the age of 25 and see how many games they played in the AHL. I was watching Carolina last night, and Brett Pesce and Jakob Slavin–the anchors of that blue line on a very good team–played a combined 21 games in the AHL. We know the current two best rookies, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, never stepped foot there. The argument is that Makar had two years of college and Hughes one, while Boqvist only had one year of juniors. College probably is a touch higher, and maybe even more so, which would lead one to wonder why more teams don’t steer their prospects to college but that’s another discussion.

Jacob Trouba never played in the AHL. Hampus Lindholm half of a season. Seth Jones came out of junior and never stepped foot there. Neither did Ivan Provorov, who came from juniors as well. Brandon Carlo played seven games there. Mikhail Sergachev never played there either. Neither did Miro Heiskanen. Samuel Girard played six games. The Hawks might say that Jokiharju spent a half season there and now he’s flourishing with the Sabres, or at least playing well, but that won’t make you or me feel any better.

I’m not saying Boqvist has already missed the boat here. A couple of these guys played 30-40 games in the AHL. And even if the Hawks keep him there all season simply because they’re too scared to sit Seabrook long term, or Maatta, or are waiting to buy either of them out in the summer, it doesn’t mean Boqvist will have turned. The Hawks could get away with it.

It would simply be a waste of time. He’s not learning that much there, and a lot of what he could be learning doesn’t apply to the NHL. And that’s if you trust the Hawks developmental system in North America, which in recent seasons has given them…um…hang on I’ll get this….Phillip Danault? Yeah…that was four seasons ago. If you want to find the last defenseman…well, we’ve had that talk and you didn’t like it the first time.

It seems the Hawks are still counting on their Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy path (something about guys named Nick). As we know, Hammer spent about half or more of the 08-09 season with the Hogs after getting a brief look in 2008 before coming up, pairing with Brian Campbell on the Hawks run to the conference final and was entrenched therein. The Hawks gave Leddy a sampling in the AHL after bringing him straight from The U., but he got a bonus half-season there thanks to the lockout and was something of a different player when he returned to the ’13 team.

But that was an awfully long time ago, and though the Hawks’ front office hasn’t changed, the game has. Remember all this when Dennis Gilbert is staring down David Pastrnak tomorrow.

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